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NEW ORLEANS, LA – Coming off a season that saw Jillian Hunsberger compete at the 2014 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships individually, the Penn State women's cross country team enters the 2015 season ranked No. 23, according to the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason poll released Tuesday afternoon.
During the 2014 campaign, the women placed seventh at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships, took fifth at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional and Jillian Hunsberger recorded a 161st-place individual finish at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, breaking the streak of five-straight appearance at the NCAA meet as a team.
The women return four runners from last year's squad. The 2015 team is led by senior and team captain Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.), and sophomores Jillian Hunsberger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Elizabeth Chikotas (Hellertown, Pa.). Gerlach, Hunsberger, and Chikotas were a part of the team that finished fifth at the Mid-Atlantic Regional. Hunsberger claimed 11th (20:49) and Gerlach finished 21st (21:13). Chikotas received a unanimous selection for the Big Ten Women's Cross Country Freshman of the Year prior to the regional championships for her performance at the Big Ten Championships and throughout the year. Senior Tori Gerlach with sophomores Jillian Hunsberger and Elizabeth Chikotas mixed with redshirt freshman Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.),a three-time national champion in high school, give the Nittany Lions experience up front as they were all on last year's NCAA team.
Penn State cross country also received some attention in the Saucony Flo50 XC Countdown, presented by Flotrack.org, checking in at No. 20 on the women's side.
With the mix of youth and experience, the 2015 cross country season should be one for the record books for the Penn State women.
At the regional level, the women were picked to finish fourth and the men were selected third by the USTFCCCA. The men are led by fifth-year seniors, and team captains, Glen Burkhardt (Kennett Square, Pa.), who posted an 11th-place finish at the 2014 Big Ten Cross Country Championships and Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.) who was 19th at the Big Ten championships last season. Glen Burkhardt, Wade Endress and fellow senior Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.), all earned all-region honors as they tallied top-25 finishes at the Mid-Atlantic Regional last season. Sophomore Ean DiSilvio (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who helped the Nittany Lions tally a third-place finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional with his 35th-place finish (31:02), will also look to step up and contribute towards the success of the Nittany Lion men throughout the 2015 season.
“We’re excited to get some recognition from the polls, both regionally and nationally,” said head coach John Gondak. “I think we have two good squads here that are ready to go out and have good seasons. Our goal is to be prepared to compete at the end of the year; we still have some work to do, and hope to climb in the rankings as we continue through the season.”
The 2015 cross country regular season commences this Friday with the Dolan Duals in Lock Haven, Pa. For more on Nittany Lion cross country, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.